A landscape of shared global challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic has moved us farther away from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Data shows that the pandemic has pushed a further 124 million people into extreme poverty. Global poverty is now expected to be at 7% by 2030 – only marginally below the level in 2015. And with the global temperature increase already at 1.2 degrees, we are on the verge of the abyss. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is deeply concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the SDGs. But there is hope. He believes in the knowledge, science, technology, and resources to turn it around. He also urges further financing for development and climate action.
The SDGs can only be achieved with strong global partnerships and cooperation. Building back better calls for inclusive green growth, including integrated policy choices in governance, social protection, green economy, and digitalization.
The UN in China also recognizes the importance of equipping people with the skills in science, technology, and innovation needed for decent work, entrepreneurship, and the achievement of the SDGs.
Against this backdrop, it was a pleasure to witness and participate in the Beyond International Technology Innovation Expo, which took place in Macao SAR, China, from 2-4 December 2021. The world can be reassured by the strong will for People-first Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) among the over 300 companies and over 20,000 participants gathered in Macao. Both of us joined the Expo, one physically and one remotely, and we commend Jason Ho and Gang Lu, the two young organizers who have shown their belief in the social, environmental and governance impact of technology, financing, and business, in setting the theme of the first Beyond Expo to be “what’s next?”.
The last day was dedicated to an SDGs Summit to highlight one of the major themes of the Expo, technology, investment, business for impact and the SDGs. The SDGs Summit consisted of three panel discussions: Impact investing, AI and ethics, and business social responsibilities. It was encouraging to hear that young start-ups and impact investors embed the SDGs in the DNA of their operations. Among them, there were initiatives on carbon neutrality, green agriculture, technology to empower rural women, and auto-driving boats to clean ocean garbage.
A new frontier for the UN
UNU in Macao, the UN organization in Macao and the focal point of the UN Country Team in China on digital technologies, played host and provided speakers to the second panel of the SDGs Summit. Attendees discovered how the latest technological developments found in China could offer ample solutions to the world’s development issues, especially those in the Global South, such as agriculture, health, and climate change. Seeing the vision of the organizers, panellists, and participants’ who are putting the SDGs at the core of their business rather than as a public relations tool provides hope for our collective future.
Beyond Expo also hosted a virtual panel featuring some UN organizations, entitled “How would the UN leverage technologies for SDGs: Conversations among technology leaders in the UN system”. It included key senior staff from the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, UNDP, and UNOPS. They discussed how their respective organizations are using technologies to accelerate the SDGs, and how the UN can deliver as one, harnessing big data and innovation.
To 2030 and Beyond
Beyond Expo has shown us its potential as a platform where impact investors, companies, government, academia, and the UN can get together to discuss how to co-create a more sustainable future through technology and innovation. It is also a prime example of how emerging generations of entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors realize that sustainability is not just good for humanity but good for business.
The UN in China calls for action from all stakeholders, including governments, individuals, and businesses, and will stand ready to support future collaborations and new partnerships to generate solutions and explore innovations for the SDGs, towards the 2030 Agenda and beyond.
Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee took office as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China on 16 January 2021 and is the designated representative of – and reports to – the UN Secretary-General.
Mr. Chatterjee has more than 25 years of experience in international cooperation, sustainable development, humanitarian coordination and peace and security in the United Nations and the Red Cross movement. Mr. Chatterjee holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University in the United States of America.
Dr. Jingbo Huang is the Director of the United Nations University Research Institute in Macau, a UN think tank on digital technology and SDGs. Jingbo has been serving the UN system for the past 20 years across five UN organizations. She holds a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University and is also an alumna of Peking University.